Friday, December 7, 2007

Light Lurking or Maureen's Rules of Christmas Lights

Photo Credit: Heidi A. at

Another reminiscence from Maureen about Rome, NY. As soon as I had my own car, the McMahon and Samson sisters started a new Yuletide tradition: light lurking. We'd drive around Rome, looking at Christmas light displays. In those days, Rome's population was mostly of Irish, Italian, Polish or German descent, therefore overwhelmingly Christian and mostly Catholic. Hence, lots of lights. Being the opinionated discerning person that I am, I came up with my own rules governing the design of the displays. Everytime we'd see a house with lights that clearly violated my rules, Sue Samson would sigh, "Oh, dear." She knew I was about to spout off, and it was especially annoying if we knew the people in the offending house. So for your edification, here are my rules for Christmas displays, and I'm warning you, I'm strict:

  1. Choose your color scheme and be consistent. If you're going to have white lights, then you should have all white, not white on the house and colored on the bushes. And yes, I can see your Christmas tree through the window, so don't think you can get away with white on the house and a fiber-optic tree.

  2. Your lights should be of a consistent type. I remember when the mini lights were first coming in and people would mix them with the 1950's type big, fat lights. People, were you color blind? The colors were not complementary at all. For example, the old lights had red and blue; the new ones hot pink and teal. And the size difference was jarring. 2007 addendum: you cannot mix white mini lights with white LED lights. The white minis are a warm hue, the LED's a sci-fi blue.

  3. Discovery made by a certain friend in Irondequoit, NY circa 1978: all red lights make your house look like a bordello. Don't do this. Even if your house is a bordello, do make an effort to be subtle about it.

  4. Re-read the Gospels of Sts. Luke and Matthew before planning your life-size Nativity scene on the front lawn. With my 12 years of Catholic education, I can assure you, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph were not in attendance at the manger.

  5. Another consistency issue: if your lights are going to blink, travel, or otherwise behave as though they are on the Vegas strip, please make sure you don't have some blinking at different rates, some traveling east-west, some traveling north-south. Trust me, you're better off just leaving them on steady. (I remember the one Christmas my dad decided to make the porch lights blink and Aunt Frances told him it looked like Joe's Bar and Grill. And the battle was on!)

  6. If you're going to violate the rules, then don't just add one strand of LED's to your all white display. Go all the way! Need inspiration? Rent National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or go to . If in the Boston area, take a drive around Somerville, Medford, and Malden after dark. My sister Sheila and I used to do that for our Massachusetts light lurking and, to our delight, once found a house completely decorated with magenta lights. It was oddly dim and depressing.

  7. Your display should be over no later than January 6th, Feast of the Epiphany (the 12th Day of Christmas). If you have excessive snow and ice buildup, I will allow you to leave the ladder in the garage and the lights on the house for the sake of safety, but they must be turned off. Don't try pretending they're still lit for Valentine's Day.

  8. Any display is better than none, even if Rules 1-6 are violated. There's no excuse for ignoring Rule 7.

Two final notes: No, Leslie and I do not have lights up yet. That will happen on Sunday. And I welcome new rules from any commenters who would like to contribute.

Happy Larry Bird's birthday, Celtics fans!



SheilaShine said...

There is one house in Jamaica Plain that has violated every rule. Not only does this house have mixed lights it has a crown, and every inflatable known to man. And to appease his irate neighbors he has added a Star of David.

Unknown said...

Boy, you ARE demanding, aren't you? What about us bah-humbug types????

Stinkweed said...

I loved light lurking with everyone in Rome! What fun!!!